There's a bit of a lack of truly perplexing puzzle and strategy games on Xbox One and that's just one of the reasons we were excited to give Clockstone's Bridge Constructor a spin. Crossing the chasm from mobile devices and PC, the game comes complete with the SlopeMania expansion and given the decent reviews the whole package picked up on other platforms (no pun intended) it should certainly fill a gap (no pun intended) in the market (no pun at all.)
Right out of the gate, Bridge Constructor is somewhat of a hit-and-miss affair. A very bare-bones interface and hardly any tutorial steps at all mean that you'll soon be trying to work out how to build your first bridge without much in the way of help. Not only that, but the game starts in absolute silence thanks to the developer taking the bizarre decision to have it muted by default. Fortunately, the actual concept of the game is relatively simple to grasp without too many pointers. You start out looking at a large gap in the scenery and need to build a bridge to allow cars, trucks and tankers to cross it. You've only got a set amount of money to spend on materials for your construction and there are only a limited number of points that you can actually attach things to. You get access to wood and steel materials most often, with concrete pillars and cables coming along later.
Once you've got something in place that looks a bit like a sturdy bridge, you can skip into test mode to see if the physics of the whole thing holds up. If it does, you can choose to run two cars or trucks across it. If they make it without the bridge collapsing and killing what we hope are the crash test dummies at the wheel, the level is complete. At this point, your bridge is saved so that once you've completed the game, you can go back and see if your creation will stand up to having two fuel tankers drive across it. If it doesn't, you can make tweaks and alterations to try get the job done without having to start from scratch.
Initially, it's all very interesting. You'll learn – via self-teaching, since the game offers absolutely no help other than to tell you that triangles are quite strong – the best methods to keep your constructions from collapsing into nothing and you'll soon realise that the slightest alteration could be enough to remove the pressure from one support and make your bridge crossable. However, there are times when Bridge Constructor's physics simply don't work as well as they should. You'll spend a good while trying to create something sturdy, only to find that when you've removed your entire creation to start from scratch for the umpteenth time, all you needed to do was build the road with small enough pieces that it can bend without shattering. That creation won't hold up against the fuel tankers, but given that you can't even access them without beating every level in the main game to start with, that won't be an issue for most. There are also times when you'll head into test mode to see if things stay together and watch as - somewhat inevitably - your bridge collapses. After thinking about it for a bit, you'll head back into test mode again to see if you can pinpoint the problem, only to see that the exact same unaltered bridge will hold up perfectly and even stand up to having two trucks drive across it.
However, that isn't to say that with these issues in place that there isn't some good fun to be had here. The levels are generally challenging and if you do stick around to unlock those tankers, you'll probably be there for a while, since they jack that difficulty level up immensely.
The main problem with Bridge Constructor is that there's very, very little room for creativity in the main game. In the SlopeMania add-on, you can get away with putting ramps and jumps in place (although that's far from the intention of the game) and that brings a bit of creativity into things. But, in the game's first five islands, you have to build bridges as if you were a professional architect or they simply don't stay up. Many will be the time where you put something together that looks a little unconventional but that should – logically – at least stand the test mode without any vehicles going across it, only for you to see it all come crashing down. At times, it feels as if the developers have promised unlimited creativity but then locked the whole thing down so that there's only one or two solutions that will work. The budgets aren't high enough for you to really get creative either. You simply never have enough money to go out on a limb and try to build something spectacular.
There's also the game's presentation to be considered. Big, chunky "mobile game" menu items with no explanation are the order of the day and although everything tends to work as it should, the boat hasn't really been pushed out on making it all look good. Not only that, but despite constantly being told that you're in the top 15% of players on this island or that you're in the bottom 30%, there's no actual way of viewing leaderboards that we could see. For a game that rewards every level with a score, that seems a little bit strange.
It has to be said that while Bridge Constructor is undoubtedly a good idea, but it's just all too limited. The locations that you build in are all but identical to one another within each eight level set you will have built a bridge in the same location two or three times, only with minor changes to the positioning of your starting points or a slightly wider gap to cross. There's potential for a truly great game here but even though the "one more level" effect is in play, that soon wears off so that potential is really all that will be left for most.
Bridge Constructor is a great idea marred by pretty shoddy presentation and execution. A clearly rushed mobile port, there's not nearly enough reward for your creative efforts since every level feels like a slightly altered copy of the previous one. There's scope for so much more here and there's a good chance that you'll keep playing in order to get to it. The problem is that it never arrives. The last level of the final stage gives you the same goal, materials and backdrops as one of the levels on the first stage. It isn't a bad game by any means and will provide entertainment for a while, but some will find the shackles and repetitiveness to be all too much, not to mention the fact that the all-but-identical mobile version is a quarter of the price.